The kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s where the whole family gathers for meals, for entertaining, doing homework and paperwork, so it's important to make it user-friendly for the entire household. Clever cabinets, spacious work surfaces, practical layout, intelligent equipment and storage: make functionality your goal. Here’s the recipe to help you design an ultra-functional kitchen, one that combines practicality and good taste.
The solutions are endless when it comes to renovating the kitchen. To maximize your investment and make the most of your kitchen’s new, functional features, it is crucial to plan carefully. To plan your project, you will need to:
The family’s different needs and lifestyles
There are several factors to consider when working out what you want from your kitchen. These include:
The size of the household and everyone’s specific needs: the larger the family, the more space will be needed to allow everyone to circulate and the larger the working areas required. Maybe a family member has specific physical needs, such as requiring a wheelchair or a walking aid? Perhaps you’re thinking about your own mobility in a few years’ time, or simply want to give the family’s young chefs the chance to cook up a storm? Such needs can be catered for by applying a few universal design rules; for example, by adjusting the height of counters and the kickplate space under the base cabinets.
Your kitchen renovation budget should provide for using quality materials as well as the cost of installing everything, of course. Your budget must include estimates for each aspect of the project:
Some major or specialized work will call for qualified professional help, which can sometimes swell the costs considerably. Now is the time to budget for it.
To optimize your kitchen space, plan it so that several family members can use the kitchen at the same time. Currently, the trend is towards setting up work stations or areas, following a natural sequence, with each area equipped for a particular task.
The work station strategy is a good basis on which to organize the kitchen and to optimize the triangle principle. This is a kitchen design concept whereby each of the three most important elements in a kitchen – the refrigerator, cooktop and sink – all represent one corner of a triangle. Observe the sequence of food preparation to reduce distances and unnecessary kitchen gymnastics.
Given that we ask our kitchens today to be so multi-functional, good lighting is essential. Plan your lighting scheme in “layers”, i.e.:
Anticipating your changing needs: universal design
Here are a few ergonomic considerations, in order to continue living comfortably as you get older:
Once you have identified your needs and drawn your kitchen layout, draw a scale plan showing the plumbing, electricity, sinks, countertops, island, appliances, windows, doors, etc.
Don’t stray from the idea of the environment you want to create, and trust your personal tastes. Remember, however, that certain materials are more appropriate. Above all, make quality a priority; the kitchen is the most-used room of the home, every day, from morning to evening. The investment will pay off.
Cabinets and drawers
The range of kitchen cabinet styles and materials on the market today is vast:
Ultimately, you cannot go wrong with cabinetry that requires minimum maintenance, whose design is timeless and which you just simply like. It is worth buying quality handles, knobs and kitchen accessories, since they enhance the look of any cabinet or drawer.
In base units, drawers are often more practical than cabinets, since you can easily see and access their contents. Pay attention to the closing mechanism, especially if you have young children or if a senior uses the kitchen. Some pull-out systems are now fitted with a soft-close mechanism which allows drawers to close gently.
Finishes, textures, colours, materials – the options are endless:
If you are designing your kitchen around work stations, use materials according to each area’s function. A butcher’s block built into a food-prep station, a tiled counter near the stove, and low-maintenance flooring near the clean-up and storage area are all examples of how to maximize your new kitchen’s potential.
Spilled food, high heels, toys on wheels, knocks, scrapes and scuffs: the kitchen floor is certainly put to the test! All the more reason to choose a tough, easy-to-clean and comfortable floor covering.
Avoid surfaces that are too smooth; they become slippery and dangerous as soon as a few drops of water are spilled.
Sinks and faucets
One or two sinks? Single, double or triple basin? Sizes, shapes, depths, materials – it’s all a matter of what you’re used to and what you need. Today’s trend is to install two sinks: a single-bowl sink near the food preparation area and another, bigger one, near the clean-up and storage area. As well as the stainless models, sinks can be made from enamelled cast iron and stone. Some are a moulded part of the countertop or are mounted under the counter, making it easier to keep the countertop clean. A couple of key factors to bear in mind:
Faucets must, obviously, be easy to use, not only in terms of being more practical than the faucets you are replacing, but with a view to being better adapted to your needs as you get older, and to encouraging the children to be independent. Motion detectors, single lever faucets and pivoting models with spray nozzles have, happily, made their way from professional restaurant kitchens to our homes. Among the features to look out for are:
Here’s a practical idea: a pot-filler, a faucet near the stove for filling deep pots and pans.
Cooking smells, steam, humidity; not all emanations from the kitchen are appetizing! Various pollutants also attack the air quality in the home and good ventilation is a must in any kitchen.
The range hood deserves particular attention. Before changing your range hood, consider the following:
Ready to get started? Yes, but where? The vital working order:
Plumbing and electricity
The water supply is crucial in the kitchen. Make it your top priority to ensure that the plumbing is correctly installed. Unless you’re an experienced do-it-yourselfer, leave this to a qualified professional, who will complete the work faster and according to safety standards.
The same goes for the electrics. Unless you’re confident you have the know-how, let a competent electrician fit the air ducts, electrical outlets for the lights and sockets for the electrical appliances, etc. You’ll be certain that everything has been done safely.
Painting and flooring
Use the opportunity to get any paintwork done before the cabinets, flooring, appliances, counters and the island are fitted. It is so much faster when you don’t have to paint around obstacles and in awkward spaces.
Next lay the flooring. Whether you’ve chosen a hardwood, laminate, vinyl or ceramic surface, laying the floor is something you’ll be able to do yourself.
Cabinets and counters
Once the paintwork and flooring are done, you can start fitting the items from which your kitchen’s personality will start to emerge, like the cabinets and countertops. Start with the cabinets and drawers. It is better to fit the sink into the counter and then lower the counter onto the base cabinet unit.
Now for the rest...
You can now go ahead and install the equipment you have chosen for the kitchen:
Decorating your kitchen is the final reward for all your efforts. It’s your opportunity to put your personal stamp on the room and give the kitchen the atmosphere you want to create.
Pay special attention to cabinet organization. Storage system manufacturers are falling over themselves to attract our attention with ever-more ingenious and adaptable storage design solutions, including pull-out racks, adjustable shelving, various storage modules and corner turntables for pans. There is a design solution to make each item accessible, easy to store and ensure you get the most out of every inch of cabinet space.
If your new kitchen includes a dinette, a sitting area or an office alcove, aim for comfort when selecting relevant items of furniture like chairs, comfy seats or a desk. After all, you are furnishing the most lived-in room of your home. Remember to allow enough space for traffic to move freely.
A golden rule regarding kitchen accessories is to avoid cluttering the work surfaces. Surfaces that are unencumbered promote a soothing and relaxing effect, as well as leaving you more room to work. Apart from a few wall hangings, a mirror or an attractive fruit bowl, limit accessories to useful items such as shelves, attractive kitchenware or your best dinnerware in a glass-fronted cabinet. You don’t need much to bring your kitchen to life and create a feel-good space.
All that remains to do is window dress – literally! Easy-to clean fabrics or materials are best, especially if the windows are near the work surfaces and the clean-up area. Food stains, splashes from the faucets and the pans will soon soil them. Make sure your curtains or blinds can be put in the washing machine or wiped clean with a damp cloth.